Saturday, 16 June 2007

“See them tear each other apart. Then see what they do with the pieces”

I was revisiting Death Laid an Egg last night, with an eye to possibly writing a longer than usual piece on it. Then the questions started: is the Japanese DVD cut? Is it in the correct aspect ratio? The difficulty in attempting to answering both questions is that the film-makers technique is deliberately disorienting, full with montage editing and off-centre compositions in line with its distinctive post-Blow Up but pre-Bird with the Crystal Plumage take on the nature of giallo perception, from the inaugural murder-that-isn't on.

While the issue of cuts does not concern me too much, probably because the film has so much going for it that it does not depend on more explicit scenes of sex and / or violence for its power and [ae]ffect, whether the 1.85 framings on the DVD are true to the original film seems crucial to any interpretation: is this composition so “off” because the film-makers intended it that way or has it been pushed to the limits through the anonymous contribution of whoever was operating the Telecine at the time? If information is being lopped off from a 2.35:1 scope image, is it equally from both sides of the image or skewed one way or the other? Here are some screengrabs that hopefully illustrate the point.

A sign on the autostrada, advising tried motorists that they should take a break; retrospectively we learn that the family of Ewa Aulin's character died in an auto accident:


1.85:1


Possible 2.35:1

Jean-Louis Tritignant in conference with the Association:


1.85:1


Possible 2.35:1 A


Possible 2.35 B


1.85:1


Possible 2.35:1 A


Possible 2.35:1 B

It also makes me think about all that “Death of the Author” stuff. Is this like reading a literary text where out of every hundred words they had inscribed – i.e. 2.35 as our starting base of data – only 79 – i.e. 1.85 divided by 2.35 – were visible, not on account of the hand of the editor or censor, but rather because the page was smaller? I suppose you could get a similar effect by blowing up an existing text so that the left and rightmost words / letters were cut off. Perhaps it only adds to the out-thereness of the experience, but Death Laid an Egg is hardly a film that needs help here...

Thoughts anyone?

2 comments:

Joe D said...

Your piece brings up some Interesting points,creative decisions by filmmaker may later be interpreted as a mistake. A case in point, some friends of mine were involved with restoring an important film, the client insisted that the background of a scene was too dark, "brighten it! "Then the DP (Guiseppe Rotunno) happened to come to America and stopped by the lab. When asked about this scene he said" It's supposed to be dark, there's nothing there! "
In the case of Death Laid An Egg, I at first thought it must be scope, it seems like all Italian genre movies of that era were shot in Techniscope, a wide screen process that also cut down on costs. But the little research I did all came up with 185:1. A lot of times when a scope film is transferred to 185, the titles are left squeezed so you can read everything, if unsqueezed names get cut off. Also you will notice the pan and scan process where for example two characters are at opposite ends of the frame and the camera seems to move from one to the other.

Wildenbruck said...

I still have to recover from this ;)
Nice cinematography though